In 1985 it was determined by the executive committee of the National Alexander Petőfi Association that a statue park be created in the town of Petőfi’s birth containing the portraits of those literary translators who had translated the works of the poet. At the time – and to this day – the idea was considered quite a curiosity.
At 3 p.m. on July 26, 1985, in the presence of illustrious Hungarian and foreign guests, the project was opened by Gábor Garai. Hungarian artists were commissioned to make likenesses of three important translators for the opening ceremony. The statue of the Italian translator Giuseppe Cassone was made by György Lantos, the portrait of Leonid Martinov prepared by Tamás Szabó, and the Bulgarian poet Ivan Vazov shaped by Gábor Veres. Since then the sculptures have acquired a missionary status, becoming hinges between different peoples and literatures. For instance, since its erection in 2001 a statue of Petőfi has stood in Noto, Sicily, the birthplace of Cassone, announcing the connection between the two poets.
The portraits that have arrived since then are created through conscious co-operation between the town and the given part of the country in question. According to a working principle that seems to work well, the new statues are raised upon a marble pedestal provided by Kiskörös, while the country or institute within it is responsible for the statue itself. During the preparation of the statue the bodies of the two countries enter a work relationship, as the harmonisation of details is important. The unveiling of a statue is generally an emotional ceremony, often involving living relatives: for instance, the second Bulgarian statue was brought and donated by the translator’s daughter. At present the park contains 14 statues, with more in preparation. Among the pieces in the collection are busts of the two Slovaks Jan Smrek and Pavol Hviezdoslav (1991), the two Chinese Szun Jung and Lu Hszün (1987), the German Franz Fühmann (1987), the Serb Jovan Jovanovics Zmaj (1994), the Pole Tadeusz Nowak (1998), the two Bulgarians Ivan Vazov (1985) and Atanasz Dalcsev (1999), the Italian Cassone (1985), the Russian Martinov (1985), Károly Kertbeny (László Kutas) (2001), the Finn Otto Manninen (Wäinö Aaltonen, 2004) and the Romanian Eugen Jebeleanu (László Kutas, 2005.). Italians and Bulgarians regularly appear at their literary “emblems”, while Kiskörös is twinned with Dutch, German, Slovak and Romanian towns, and so recognition and the popularity of Petőfi abroad is reflected in the immediate vicinity of the museum ensemble. Visitors universally voice their appreciation of the project, which in turn encourages us in the creation of further statues of literary translators. The town also has a significant collection of foreign-language Petőfi editions, although as neither the museum nor the library automatically receives copies of new publications, expansion of the material is haphazard. There is no limit to the expansion of the statue park, as the museum is situated in an open, landscaped park.
We believe that we must turn even more attention to the conditions in which these pure cultural values are held, for our foreign partners, present in the form of statues, have also recognised the significance and rank of the project and have slotted Kiskörös into their Hungarian itineraries, for here, through a memorial, they can meet their own geniuses in an eminent company of their own kind.
Our endeavour – a task spreading over long years – is for the statues of all those literary translators who have made it possible for peoples to read Petőfi in their own tongue to be represented in the Kiskörös statue park.